Prosecutors announced Wednesday that the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office will seek the death penalty against a Palmdale couple charged with capital murder in the beating death of the woman's 8-year-old son.
Pearl Sinthia Fernandez, 31, and Isauro Aguirre, 35, were indicted last summer in the May 2013 killing of her son, Gabriel Fernandez, whose death triggered investigations into the county's child welfare system.
The murder count includes the special circumstance allegation of murder involving the infliction of torture.
Aguirre was in present, but Fernandez was not in court as Deputy District Attorney Jon Hatami made the announcement that the District Attorney's Office is "going to seek the death penalty as to both defendants in this case.''
Fernandez and Aguirre are due back in a downtown Los Angeles courtroom July 14 for a pretrial hearing.
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"It's mixed reaction," said Paula Pedraza, a supporter with the group Gabriel's Justice. "I am happy, I just wished he would have (pleaded) guilty or taken the plea deal so we didn't have to go through this whole thing."
The couple — who are being held without bail — were initially charged in May 2013 with the boy's killing. Prosecutors took the case to the grand jury last year to avoid continued delays in the case, Hatami said last year.
Fernandez and Aguirre are accused of inflicting multiple injuries on the boy, who suffered a fractured skull, several broken ribs and was burned.
Los Angeles County Fire Department personnel were sent on May 22, 2013, to a home in the 200 block of East Avenue Q-10 in response to a call that the boy was not breathing. He was declared brain dead that day, but not taken off life support until two days later.
In July 2014, the boy's father, three siblings and paternal grandparents filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against the county departments of Children and Family Services and Public Social Services, the Sheriff's Department and the Palmdale School District. Fernandez and Aguirre were also named as defendants.
The lawsuit alleged that the siblings, like Gabriel, were "compelled" by county officials to live with Fernandez and Aguirre and were also "physically and emotionally abused" by the couple.
Family members, neighbors, teachers and others made more than 60 abuse reports to the proper county authorities, according to the lawsuit.
County authorities previously said two social workers and two supervisors were ordered fired in the wake of the boy's death.
Lolita Lopez contributed to this report.